It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?
From the Hardcover edition.
A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.
Gemma, 16, has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left wi! th the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy. (Ages 12 up) –Patty Campbell
KathyB (USA: TX) (2007/06/10):
The story begins in 1895 in India, where Gemma has lived since she was a small child. On her 16th birthday, Gemma has a vision. A terrible vision that she finds is true, her mother has died by her own hand. As the days progress, Gemma begins to have more visions. Visions that haunt her. Visions that make her seek a truth for what she see. She returns with her family to England where she enters an all girls finishing school. She is warned by a handsome gypsy boy to fight her visions. To fight the pull to seek out the answers to her questions. She is slowly drawn into a mysterious world of light and beauty. She takes with her three girls she has befriended. The more they visit this beautiful word and the more they try to use it's power, the further they get drawn into it's web. Soon they must escape before it's power consumes them, but it will not come without great sacrifice. This is one of the very best books I have read in a long time. It is an awesome story that makes you feel the power of the magic's great and terrible beauty. The author has written two more books in this series and I cannot wait to read them both.
emily1991 (USA: NY) (2007/11/27):
i loved this book but it was for a more advanced teen group. there is also a second book coming out soon.